TIPS | 15 MIN READ
65 Business Tips Every CEO Needs To Know From John D. Rockefeller
TIPS | 9 MIN READ
65 Business Tips Every CEO Needs to Know from John D. Rockefeller
Who should you trust? Who can you listen to?
What tactics and strategies will actually work for YOU?
When I started reading like a madman a few years ago (over 100 books per year), I quickly started to focus on the ones that withstood the test of time.
Napoleon Hill, Dale Carnegie, Henry Ford, John D. Rockefeller, Andrew Carnegie, you name it.
Because here’s the reality:
Business success today comes down to the same principles that applied 100 years ago
And I learned that while everyone else is focused on the latest tactics and hacks to try and take a shortcut, the foundations of success are the same. So, I tried to master those.
And one of the greatest businessmen and CEOs of all time in my opinion is the great John D. Rockefeller.
Although he died almost 50 years before I was born, he has had a greater business influence on me than almost anyone else on the planet.
It’s said he’s the wealthiest American of all time, becoming the first person to create a personal fortune of $1 billion.
In today’s money he was worth $340 billion, which dwarfs the likes of Warren Buffett ($90 billion), Bill Gates ($91 billion) and Jeff Bezos ($109 billion).
But this isn’t why he’s played such an influential role on my life and business…
The reason is HOW he created all this… and his overall approach to business, time management, finances and decision making is fascinating.
So if you’re a CEO and business owner looking for an edge, so you can gain complete control of your business, improve your time management and productivity (so you can work “on” your business instead of in it), and optimize your business so that it scales faster than ever…
… this article is for YOU!
Having researched John D. Rockefeller a lot over the years, and having listened to his biography twice, I’ve created a list of 65 takeaways designed to help you — the modern day CEO and business owner — take your business to the next level.
Let’s dive in, starting with 13 of my favorite Rockefeller tips …
1: Run your business by the numbers — ALWAYS!
Rockefeller knew the numbers inside and out… ALWAYS!
As you transform from a “hustling” entrepreneur into a CEO, you may not get involved in the day-to-day running of your business like you used to, but it’s essential you know your numbers.
This goes far beyond your finances. You need to know your business’ 80/20, so you can highlight what does and doesn’t work. You need to have your marketing metrics tracked in detail, employees, timing, etc.
Once you know your numbers inside and out, you can easily make decisions with the right information you need, because almost everything in business becomes clear once you’re clear on your numbers
Get the Complete KPI Guide For Entrepreneurs & Master Your Numbers Once And For All
2: Discipline, discipline, discipline.
One of our most important tasks at 2X is to help our clients find what to focus on, and to then make sure they focus on this (and only this).
Entrepreneurs love to juggle balls. We love shiny objects. We love to start stuff. And it’s often easier to move onto your next idea once your previous idea loses some “new” appeal.
A good CEO does not do this!
You need to show discipline and focus every day. Rockefeller was an absolute master at this.
You need to know what your role is and then stick to this every single day! Easy to do? Not always. But the muscle of discipline is a key quality of a great CEO.
3: Master yourself and you master your world.
Many of our clients come to us when they’re stuck on the ‘six-figure hamster wheel’, caught in the hustle and working far too hard. Too many people think this is how you build a successful business, but the “hustle and grind” only takes you so far.
Want a successful business that lasts decades?
Start with YOU — master your mind, body and soul!
You cannot build your empire at the expense of your health and wellbeing. Master yourself, and the rest will follow. Rockefeller took this seriously — working on his mind and body each and every day.
4: Nap after meals and take breaks throughout the day.
I will repeat… you need to look after YOU if you’re to build, scale and run a successful business.
You’re human, and as a human you need sleep.
A nap not only helps you recharge your batteries, but allows you to escape your work so you can come at it from a different angle. As a CEO, one of your most important roles is to make the right strategic decisions. The decisions you make determine your entire business (from top to bottom).
Rockefeller did this daily, and he wasn’t the only one. Einstein, Thomas Edison, Leonardo da Vinci, and Winston Churchill and more all used the power of napping to improve their mental capacity, strategy, performance, energy, etc.
A daily power nap allows you to step back, think outside the box, recharge, process and retain information better, as well as top up your energy levels. It worked for many successful people in history, so try it out and I’m confident it’ll work for you, too.
5: Treat your work and life like a marathon.
At school and college, I did this. I’m sure you did, too, leaving your assignment to the last minute, and pulling an all-nighter. Maybe you can get away with it at college, but not in business.
Success doesn’t follow short bursts of “hustle”
True success builds over time — consistency & momentum.
Treat your work as a marathon, ensuring you turn up with your best every single day. Daily progress is much better than the occasional big win. It’s not only easier on your sanity, but helps you build a business that lasts the test of time (instead of one that relies on the occasional massive launch).
6: Mental compartmentalizations.
This is what Rockefeller said about the importance of mental compartmentalizations:
“Do not many of us who fail to achieve big things . . . fail because we lack concentration – the art of concentrating the mind on the thing to be done at the proper time and to the exclusion of everything else?”
Simply put, mental compartmentalization looks at how our mind deals with conflicting thoughts simultaneously. As a CEO, you’re bombarded with issues, situations, distractions, tasks and so much more (on a daily basis). You’re pulled in every direction possible, but you must resist.
As Rockefeller says, you often fail due to a lack of concentration. Focus your mind on the ONE thing you need to focus on. Make a decision; overcome the obstacle; give it your all, and then… move on.
Plus, you want balance? Compartmentalizing your mind and focus is absolutely essential. Even with all that he had going on running a massive empire, John D. was legendary at being present in the moment.
Wherever you are, be there… and only there.
7: Remember (and use) people's names.
It’s said that Rockefeller knew the names of 3,000 of his employees.
I find it hard to imagine this, especially considering he didn’t have an iPhone with access to their picture and details. He relied solely on his memory, which may lead you to ask… why?
Why spend so much time and energy?
The reason is, you are in a people business. The relationships you build with your team, suppliers, customers, peers and mentors matter. The simple act of knowing someone’s name and remembering a few other details (‘how’s your daughter doing?’ or ‘does your son still play football?’) shows you care.
It shows the other person that you value them, which leads to loyalty, respect and the fact they too will value you, your time and what you have to say.
8: Be stoic (let go of what you don’t control).
Today, we know John D. as one of the most wealthy and successful people of all time, but we forget that he built much of his success during one of history’s greatest market depressions.
Just as he gained momentum, the entire game changed and it ruined a lot of lives. Yet Rockefeller later said he was inclined to see opportunity in every disaster.
He learned to overcome obstacles and distance himself from things outside of his control. This is a lesson everyone can learn from, especially CEOs who have little direct control over the daily ins-and-outs, but who must make the “right” decision regardless.
9: Consistent schedule.
One of our first priorities when working with a new client at 2X is to help them take control of their schedule. Often, they are stuck working inside their business, pulled in every direction, simply reacting to whatever situation seems the most urgent.
You cannot build success like this!
Success comes from consistency and discipline.
Rockefeller excelled at this, sticking to a borderline obsessive daily schedule.
Here’s how his morning looked:
- 6.00AM: wake up and read the newspaper for an hour…
- 7.00AM: stroll through the house and garden, giving a dime to each new employee and a nickel to each veteran…
- 8.00AM: eat breakfast, followed by a game of numerica (a puzzle game), which gave him time to digest his food properly….
- 9:15AM: worked on his correspondence, mostly devoted to his philanthropy and investments…
- 10:15AM: golf, followed by a bath and rest…
He refused to deviate from his schedule, ensuring he remained in control over it (instead of ‘it’ controlling him). As a CEO, you need to do the same, because a consistent schedule is the only way to work “on” your business.
10: Take Sundays off.
Rockefeller treasured his Sunday’s, largely due to his faith.
For you, it may be another day. The point isn’t to take off Sunday, but rather be sure to take time off each week so you can escape your work, responsibilities, and the general chaos of running a business.
You’re not a robot, so be sure to recharge and figure out what ‘balance’ you want in your life, then let’s make that happen. When it comes to our work at 2X, this is something we remind our clients often.
After all, what is a successful business without a great life?
Rest and recharge, and live a Level 10 Life.
11: Dress to impress.
Wear nice shoes. Be clean cut. Wear clothes that live up to your standards…
John D. took pride in his appearance, and expected those around him to do the same.
It may sound trivial, especially when someone like Mark Zuckerberg only wears black t-shirts, but first impressions are important, and people DO make quick, snap judgments. As a CEO, you are the face of your company, and what you wear (and how you present yourself) creates an impression.
This doesn’t mean you need to wear a three-piece suit every day, because you need to make your style your own. But make sure you ‘live’ this each day, and that it leaves a positive impression at all times.
12: Give a lot and you will receive a lot in return.
By the time he died at the age of 97, John D. Rockefeller had donated $540 million. He made a lot of money, but he made sure he gave a lot away. We continue to see this today, with the likes of Bill Gates giving away the majority of his money ($28 billion to his foundation in 2013).
If you give a lot, you get a lot in return.
This doesn’t just come down to money, because people who are generous with their time, knowledge, help and care tend to receive much more in return.
We pass this philosophy on to every one of our clients at 2X, helping them appreciate how important their team and culture is. As CEO, you lead from the front. Be generous and give a lot to your team and customers, and you will get a lot more in return.
13: Be super frugal (even when you don’t have to).
Despite his wealth, Rockefeller lived a frugal life. He began this way as a child, continued as he grew up and entered the business world, and ended this way despite becoming the planet’s wealthiest person.
He gave a lot away.
He was generous.
He dressed to impress…
BUT he lived by the notion that you should never spend more than you have to (even if you can afford to).
This principle isn’t about money, but rather ego, discipline and self-mastery.
As you grow and scale your business, you can afford to spend more on talent, software, tools and marketing. But just because you can doesn’t mean you should, so by remaining frugal throughout the good and the bad, you increase your chances of making the “right” decisions at all times.
Use This 2X Dashboard Spreadsheet Template To Master Your Numbers & Make Better Decisions:
14: Don't be afraid to borrow money to bet on yourself.
During the Civil War, Rockefeller borrowed $100,000 to expand his oil refinery. At the time, company profits were less than $17,000, so this not only represented a lot of money, but a lot of risk.
Despite this, he bet on himself. You must do the same!
If you aren’t willing to bet on yourself, nobody else will. This may involve borrowing money from the bank, or investing in something that pushes you outside your comfort zone.
At 2X, we can often tell who will produce the greatest results within 90 days before we even begin, because the ones who do are those who don’t dwell about the program fee.
They know they need help to get to the next level of entrepreneurship, and they believe the investment will help them scale to the next level. They believe in themselves, and they’re willing to invest in this belief.
15: Don't drink or smoke.
John D. didn’t drink or smoke. He had a vision and beliefs… and acted accordingly with those.
We can all learn from this approach because it not only represents a healthier lifestyle, but a chance to show daily discipline and self-mastery.
As CEO, your time matters. How you choose to spend your time has a huge effect on your health, wellbeing and decision making. The occasional drink may not hurt, but choosing to spend your time partying (where you could instead work on either yourself or your business) more than likely will.
For my entire teens and nearly all of my 20’s, I partied a lot. It was fun in the moment, but I spent the majority of my time either getting over a hangover or leading to the next one, and I can confidently say that it cost me millions of dollars. Seriously.
And it even was one of the key reasons that I had to call 911 not once but twice, as I created my body to start having anxiety attacks.
Then, I got wise. I gave up ever having a hangover again nearly 2 years ago now and will never look back. It’s life-changing, and my results and energy and happiness are proof that it’s worth it, at least to me.
Choose for yourself, but at the end of the day, take care of YOU. You are the asset.
16: Know what you want and go after it.
You need to have a purpose, and you need to know what you’re fighting for.
If your plan is to have a business and figure it out along the way, you’ll likely spend far too long going after the wrong things. No money, fame or authority will be enough, because each time you get to the next level you’ll realize it wasn’t what you wanted — meaning you will always strive for more, more, more…
This is why we focus on the “big” picture when working with a new client at 2X. It’s important we find out what you want, so we can ensure you go after it every single day.
Risk, obstacles, failure, fear… it becomes much easier to overcome once you know what you truly want.
17: Think next level.
Think big or go home. Rockefeller didn’t create the largest oil refiner at the age of 31, become the first person to be worth $1 billion, or retire as the richest man in the USA by thinking small.
Whatever level you’re at, you need to think NEXT LEVEL!
- Build goals that push you to the next level.
- Surround yourself with people at the next level.
- Hire mentors and coaches who elevate you to the next level.
As a CEO you need to think next-level, because if you don’t nobody else in your business will.
This is why we take such a hands-on, 1-1 approach at 2X, because we want to make sure every single person who comes through our program is at next-level thinking from day one (and so we can keep them at this level throughout the program and double their business).
18: Be two steps ahead of your competition.
At 2X, our main focus is to help you optimize your business and life so you can work ‘on’ your business instead of getting caught inside it.
The reason this is so important is because you need to focus only on the big picture, as your job is to strategize and develop for the future — NOT get caught up in today’s tasks.
Once you work ‘on’ the business you’ll have the time to come at obstacles from a different angle. You can observe your industry and competitors, and make sure you stay two steps ahead of them…
If everyone else takes a step left, maybe you need to go right…
If the rest of your industry does this, maybe it’s time you do “that”…
If you stay two steps ahead of your competition, you’ll never be short of success. But you can only do this if you become a real CEO who ONLY works ‘on’ the business; not ‘in’ it.
19: Work hard.
A former classmate of John D. Rockefeller once said, “I have no recollection of John excelling at anything… There was nothing about him to make anybody pay special attention to him or speculate about his future.”
But that same classmate also said, “I do remember he worked hard at everything; not talking much, and studying with great industry.”
The lesson here is you don’t have to be special or gifted to build success. Talent helps, sure, but the secret ingredient is to work hard and have a strong work ethic.
But this IS NOT the same as “hustling” and working long into the night; this is about setting a standard and keeping yourself accountable to this every single day.
20: Listen far more than you talk.
There is strength in silence, so don’t speak (much) unless you have something to say.
People tend to confuse good leadership and communication with quantity instead of quality. But the best leaders are those who listen, observe and take it all in. When they do speak, they do so with authority.
As a CEO, your job isn’t to talk the most; it’s to listen and observe, so when you do talk… it has impact.
21: Practice patience and persistence.
Rockefeller once said, “I do not think that there is any other quality so essential to success of any kind as the quality of perseverance. It overcomes almost everything, even nature.”
Success doesn’t just happen, and as a CEO you need to both accept and embrace this.
This is why one of our biggest focusses at 2X is mindset and vision, and ensuring our clients develop both. You need to persist and fight and believe, and have the patience to understand it won’t all happen today. Despite this, you need to see through the trees, even at times when nobody else can.
22: Be calm in crisis.
Rockefeller was renowned for keeping his head when everyone else around him lost theirs.
Just as his career began, the greatest market depression in American history hit. Everyone panicked, yet he kept his cool, saved his money and observed what other people did wrong.
He later said, “I’m inclined to see the opportunity in every disaster.”
As a CEO, you WILL face adversity, failure and hardship around every corner. Your job is to work on the big picture, where the pressure and potential disaster is at its highest. As such, you must learn to keep your cool and remain calm no matter what.
Not only do opportunities exist for people like this, but it sets the tone for the rest of your team to follow.
23: Never get ruffled or excited.
Extending from the previous point, Rockefeller kept his feelings and emotions in check.
In crisis you must remain calm, but you must show the same discipline when success comes your way.
A CEO who gets excited is one that becomes cocky and complacent, taking their eye off the ball and inviting further issues into their life. Remain cool at all times, through the good and the bad.
A successful CEO is one who shows displaine.
24: Protect your privacy at all costs.
Although Rockefeller built masses of wealth, fame and fortune, he shroud himself in privacy — even to those close to him.
It’s important to ALWAYS remember that as a CEO, you lead from the front.
- Keep your private life, private.
- Keep your decisions and feelings close to your chest.
- Keep a close circle of trust, and keep this circle small.
Authority and fame doesn’t mean you have to become famous. Protect your privacy at all cost, as this allows you to keep making the right decisions.
25: Be hard to read; let others guess while you control them.
It’s said that colleagues and rivals alike found it difficult to read John D.
He didn’t make himself easily accessible, turning away unsolicited guests and only agreeing to meet someone once they made their request in writing. He often refused the press, and kept as many people as possible on the outside-looking-in.
And when he did meet with someone, he maintained a calm persona, leaving it hard for people to gauge his thoughts and feelings.
This gave him control and power, and as a CEO you should take a similar stance.
26: Don’t crave the approval of others.
As a CEO, you WILL make decisions that are not always popular.
People will disagree with you, and they may say bad things about you and your decisions. When they do, it will no doubt hurt you and annoy you and cause a great deal of frustration.
By all means, feel this.
But never react to it.
Rockefeller never craved the approval of others, and didn’t allow the opinions of others to affect him and his decisions (especially if he didn’t respect them).
You need to have conviction in your decisions, and you need to base them on what you think is best — not what will make other people happy.
27: Play devil’s advocate on yourself to keep yourself humble.
A common trait many successful CEOs share (John D. Rockefeller, one of them) is that they are their biggest critic and ALWAYS question their decisions.
You need conviction and confidence, sure, but you also need to appreciate you may not be right.
- Question yourself.
- Play devil’s advocate.
- Consider an alternative.
This not only keeps you humble, but forces you to look at an issue from every possible angle. Those who do this tend to rise to the top quickly.
The thing is, this is hard, which is why it helps to hire a coach or mentor.
At 2X, we play this role for our clients, always pushing you to be your best and question whether there’s something you’ve overlooked.
28: Don’t suddenly become “too good” for people when your wealth skyrockets.
Rockefeller came from humble beginnings.
He didn’t grow up rich, and was part of a large family with an absent father. As he grew older, he wasn’t handed anything in life; beginning his career as a simple bookkeeper, and building his empire from nothing.
In time, his wealth and fame grew, but he kept his ego in check the entire time.
He remained true to his values and principles, and as CEO it’s vital you do the same — at work and home.
Money and power should not change you, it should only highlight and advance your best traits so you can provide an even greater impact to those you serve.
29: Be curious of other people and listen attentively.
Just because you are a CEO doesn’t mean you have it all “figured out”.
No matter how powerful and knowledgeable you may become, always remain humble enough to listen to others and see things from their perspective.
Rockefeller was renowned for this, always giving people his fullest attention.
He listened of them and tried to learn from them. Above all, he was curious about them — whoever they were. Treasure your time and privacy for sure, but when you do let someone in, listen and give them everything.
30: Engage with and show interest in people up and down the corporate ladder the same.
Extending from the previous point, this relates to ALL people you come across.
DO NOT only give your fellow CEOs and thought-leaders your attention.
From the top of your business to the bottom, be sure to listen to the person, give them your fullest attention, and seek ways to learn from them.
31: Carry a pocket notebook EVERYWHERE.
John D. carried a little red notebook with him, wherever he went.
He would document his conversations in it, make observations, and come up with ideas. I imagine he did so because he never knew when inspiration would strike, or when something worth noting would occur.
Neither do you!
You never know when or where your next idea might come, so it’s important you don’t take a chance on your memory. After all, you have a lot on your mind, so your notebook may become your new best friend.
32: Follow up on other people’s ideas.
Speaking of Rockefeller’s notebook, he would use it to document other people’s ideas as well as his own. In fact, whenever he met with a supervisor or manager, he would ask them “what can we do to improve?”
He would listen and write down their suggestions, and then… follow up with them in the future.
As CEO, one of your biggest roles is to manage and lead your team. Part of this involves listening to them and taking their ideas onboard. This is easier than ever, especially if you run daily or weekly meetings.
But having someone share an idea is one thing… following up with them and holding them accountable so you can see what they have done about it, is what separates the best from the rest.
33: Frame your ideas as suggestions or questions.
As well as creating a culture for your team to express ideas, it’s important you communicate with them in the right way at all times.
Rockefeller was a master of this, always seeking other people’s ideas before his own, and framing his own ideas as suggestions or questions — therefore involving his team in the process, as well as inviting them to help make the idea better.
It’s the notion of using “we” instead of “I”, and placing your ego to one side so you can hone in on the best result for the business as a whole.
It doesn’t matter who comes up with the ideas… it’s all about executing the best ones.
A good CEO knows this, never making it about ‘them’.
34: Give maximum autonomy to colleagues and managers.
At 2X, our core focus is to help our clients work ‘on’ their business instead of ‘in’ it.
It’s vital you do this as CEO, and one of the worst things you can do is slip into micro-management. It’s a waste of your time, and it’s a waste of theirs. You need to build a world class team, and once you do…
… YOU NEED TO LET THEM GET ON WITH WHAT THEY DO BEST.
Rockefeller did this. He took an interest in every level of Standard Oil’s business, but managed each department with a light touch, allowing for as much autonomy as possible so those doing the work could get on with the work.
35: Think beyond the money!
John D. Rockefeller once said:
“I know of nothing more despicable and pathetic than a man who devotes all the hours of the waking day to the making of money for money’s sake.”
He also said:
“The man who starts out simply with the idea of getting rich won’t succeed; you must have a larger ambition.”
It’s true. You need to have a purpose that goes beyond money, and you need to have a vision that not only drives you, but your team and audience. It’s not to say money isn’t important, because it is.
But it should act as a by-product for a much grander purpose — not be your purpose.
36: Enjoy your work so much it isn’t work.
Rockefeller loved what he did, to an extent that he dreamt about his business at night.
It’s not to say you will love your business more than anything in life, nor that it will always be easy or pleasant. But it is important you love what you do, because as CEO you lead from example.
Everyone looks up to you and turns to you, so the more you enjoy your work, the more they will.
37: Have a mighty passion for the details.
One of Rockefeller’s aide’s once said:
“I have seen him sign his name to hundred of papers at a sitting. He did each signature carefully as if this particular one was to be the only one by which he was to be remembered for all time.”
When it came to paying attention to details, Rockefeller excelled.
He paid attention and cared about each part of the process, no matter how small it may be. As CEO you need to the same, which is why we help our clients at 2X work ‘on’ their business.
Because if you’re busy doing the work, you’ll have no time to care about the details.
Whereas if your job is to manage and oversee the work, you have all the time you need!
38: Be early; that’s on time.
As CEO, your time is precious and valuable. Once a minute passes you by, it’s gone forever.
You need to treasure your time.
You need to make sure others do, too.
(and you should value theirs)
Rockefeller didn’t want people to turn up on time; he wanted them to turn up early and prepared. Set the same example in your business, and not only will you become more productive, but your team will, too.
39: Plan your balance – business, family, faith and hobbies.
Although Rockefeller loved his business and work (and had an incredible work ethic), he also loved his family and his Church. This played into his grander purpose, and he made sure he never forgot about this — no matter how big and powerful he and his business ventures became.
It’s important you remember this, because if you do your job as CEO properly, your time will become more and more precious. This is great, but you should never lose sight of your:
Whatever is important to you today, make sure it remains that way. However “busy” you get, make sure it’s not at the expense of your health or wellbeing.
40: Pass on your frugal ways to your kids.
As I mentioned earlier, John D. Rockefeller remained a humble and frugal man despite his wealth and fortune. Beyond this, he made sure he passed his values down to his children, worried they would grow up as spoiled adults.
He ran his household like a mini, merit-based economy; and he always made sure they had a series of chores to keep up with.
He could literally have given them the world, but he did everything he could not to.
Why? Because the best example you can pass onto your children are the values you’ve developed over time as a CEO: persistence, work ethic, mindset, values, principles…
Stay humble, remain frugal, and pass it all onto your next generation.
41: Don’t compare yourself to others.
We live in a world where the temptation to compare yourself to others is present… all the time.
You have immense access to people, allowing you to see how others live. But it’s important you don't get trapped by the desires of trivial people, and the success and lives they lead.
All that matters is what you do with YOUR life and YOUR business.
Don’t follow others. Don’t compare yourself to others. Don’t second guess whether you are wrong and they are right. As CEO, you’re measured against the decisions you make…
Well, here’s the thing… YOU have to be the one who makes them.
Rockefeller followed his own path, and you need to do the same (no matter what other people think).
42: Borrow to grow faster.
Rockefeller said, “the hardest problem all through my business career was to obtain enough capital to do all the business I wanted to do and could do, given the necessary amount of money.”
Even though he had more money than anyone else on the planet at the time, it was never enough to match his ambitions. So he would borrow and go into debt, but only because he bet on himself and knew he had what it took to make it back (and then some).
It’s important you too bet on yourself, and if that means you have to borrow, take risk and invest, so be it.
You will often have to borrow to grow faster, and you will always have to step out of your comfort zone to climb to the next level.
43: Realize that not working is important money making time (to reflect and think).
Even though Rockefeller loved his work, dreamed about business, and worked harder than most other people… he still appreciated the importance of taking a step back and reflecting.
He often turned to his faith and his family for this.
(for you, it may look very different)
It doesn’t matter what you do, so long as you take the time to take a step back. This is why one of the first things we work on with our clients at 2X centers around their mindset.
The most successful CEOs in the world spend a lot of time and money on their mindset.
They invest in themselves so they can be their best self.
They work on “them” so they can be the best leader they can be.
They do whatever it takes to avoid burnout, because you cannot run a successful business if you run yourself into the ground.
My favorite new habit of the past 12 months is more Thinking Time than ever before. It’s made me way more strategic and way less stressed out than ever before in my business.
44: Don’t rush; take your time; slow things down.
Although busy, Rockefeller didn’t rush.
He took his time and made sure he made the right decisions and created his best work.
You too can take a lot from this, because although you have a lot on your plate, rushing around from one task to another will not help you achieve what you want to.
Once again, this is why we passionately help our clients work ‘on’ their business through our 2X program.
Those stuck ‘in’ their business have no time to slow things down.
Whereas those who work ‘on’ their business do…
45: Enjoy and commit to the process.
The life of a CEO isn’t always fun.
I can’t imagine each day was enjoyable being John D. Rockefeller, what, with all the responsibility and expectation. Despite this, it’s important you enjoy the process — through the good, bad and in-between.
The work you do as CEO is important. You provide value to your team and audience, and all other stakeholders in your business. Through the good and bad, remember this.
Enjoy it as best you can, and commit to giving it your all.
There are going to be ups and downs. There are going to be sacrifices. There are going to be failures, hurdles, and many times where you think “is this really worth it?”
In the end, entrepreneurship isn’t for everyone. But for those of us that it is for, you have to commit to the long-term and enjoy the ride. And you must push on.
46: Get rid of people who don’t share your values.
One of your most important roles as CEO is to build a successful culture.
This means the people in your team and who you work with NEED to align with you and your business’ values. If not, you will always face an uphill battle.
However, this is sometimes easier said than done…
On occasion, you may not be able to remove someone just like that. Don’t worry. Neither did Rockefeller.
He would often bide his time and keep someone as long as they were useful, but always conscious about moving on from someone who didn’t seem a good fit for the bigger picture.
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47: Treat people with kindness.
It’s easy to take that above point and assume John D. Rockefeller was ruthless.
A cliche of the business world is that a CEO must be clinical and ready to battle, and although this is sometimes the case, the more likely state is to treat people with kindness.
Despite his ruthless streak, Rockefeller was kind and generous and loyal to those he cared about.
Never be unkind for the sake of it.
Your default mode should be to show generosity and kindness whenever you can.
48: Be the person who deserves what you want.
There’s a difference between having a vision and creating a set of values to live by, and to then be the person who actually lives by them.
Because of his humble upbringing, Rockefeller knew he had to work hard and be the person he needed to be if he wanted to get what he wanted.
Nothing is given to you. As CEO, you must set an example, because this isn’t about you, but rather the team you lead.
Figure out what you want. Figure out who it’s going to take for you to become to get what you want. Then be that person starting today.
49: Turn every disaster into opportunity.
Rockefeller once said, “I always tried to turn every disaster into an opportunity.”
If there’s one trait that separates successful CEOs from everyone else, it’s their ability to turn bad into good. Mistakes and failure are part of the process, and you cannot avoid it.
You can limit it, sure… but never remove it altogether.
Practice perseverance and persistence, and like Rockefeller, look at every disaster as an opportunity for what comes next.
50: Leverage others for your income.
“I would rather earn 1% off a 100 people’s efforts than 100% of my own efforts,” Rockefeller said.
This is one of the most important lessons a CEO can ever learn, because your job is to utilize the skills, time and effort of other people. It’s not to say you shouldn’t work hard, but your job is NOT to do the work.
Successful CEOs are at peace with this, embracing the fact they lead other people to do the heavy lifting.
Don’t work hard, work smart.
Don’t get hung up on how much you do, instead lead your team to be the best they can be.
51: Get hyper focused on your one big goal.
Rockefeller also once said, “Singleness of purpose is one of the chief essentials for success in life, no matter what may be one’s aim.”
The vision you create for your business and the purpose you attach to it is EVERYTHING.
You will always have many things you could do, but often only ONE you should.
Temptation and opportunity surrounds you at all times, but the less you commit to and the more you focus on ONE thing, the better.
Never have multiple goals. Always have a single focus, and push everything you have into it.
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52: Know what you want precisely – even if you don’t know how you’re going to get it.
Speaking of a vision, always get precise and specific (to the point where you can taste it).
It doesn’t matter if you know how you’ll get there.
It doesn’t matter if the details are vague.
But get hyper-focussed on what you want, because until you do you’ll achieve little.
You don’t get in the car until you know where you’re going, right?
Well don’t drive your business forward without first getting clear on what you want.
53: Never sell yourself short.
Did John D. Rockefeller have doubts and insecurities? I imagine so… he was human, after all.
Yet he believed in himself and backed himself, and he refused to sell himself short.
As CEO, you need to protect your time, resources and energy.
Never be afraid to pitch your true worth.
If you believe it’s true, it’s true.
Back yourself, and never — ever — sell yourself short.
54: Be in a hurry; move fast.
This may sound strange, as we’ve already talked about taking a step back and ensuring you always have time for reflection.
The thing is, your time is precious; and it’s going fast.
So don’t wait or hang around.
Move fast and be in a hurry.
Rockefeller did. He couldn’t have achieved all he did by taking his time and thinking about every single detail. He wanted what he wanted NOW.
- Did he show patience and humility? Yes.
- Did he reserve time for things other than work? Sure.
But he was hungry and in a hurry… every day.
Move fast. Be a cheetah.
55: Protect your strategy.
Once you come up with your vision, you must build a strategy so you can live it.
Once you have your strategy, you must then protect it!
From both other people and yourself, you must protect your strategy so you can stay on the right path. As you can imagine, Rockefeller had a lot of people who wanted to give him advice, and even though some of this will have been great, he ensured he protected his strategy.
(even if it meant saying no to a potentially good idea)
56: Be cash heavy.
If you want to run a successful business, you need to make sure you have enough cash.
Many metrics look good on paper (and can make you look wealthy and successful), but without enough cash you cannot achieve much. Cash matters. It’s not everything, sure, but it makes sense to run a cash heavy business.
When we work with our clients at 2X, we focus on this a lot!
We help them build businesses that last the test of time, and to do this you need to make sure you have enough cash for today, next month and three months from now.
Rockefeller respected this, which is why he built the wealth he did.
57: Stand your ground — it builds respect.
Like many successful people, John D. Rockefeller had a stubborn streak. He stood his ground and backed his ideas, and he had confidence in his decisions.
It’s a fine balance, as CEO.
You need to listen to others, but you must also take control. Standing your ground is part of this, as it builds respect in your team, peers and customers. Those who stand their ground are confident, and as we’ve already discussed, confidence matters in this game.
58: Don’t keep up with the Joneses.
As you become a successful CEO, you’ll have more freedom, power and money to pursue what you want (and at times, things you don’t want).
From the latest trends to the hottest products, the temptation to “keep up with Joneses” is always there.
As a wealthy and respected man, Rockefeller faced this each day. But he fought it, because he knew just because someone else had it, thought it or believed in it didn’t mean he had to.
Stand your ground! Go after what you want, and nothing else.
Create your values, and live to these (and only these). You can see what we stand for here. If someone doesn’t fit that, they won’t be a part of our team or client list.
59: Figure out what the other side wants in a negotiation and give them that… while you win at the same time.
It’s said Rockefeller was a master negotiator, and over the years he was part of hundreds of deals and negotiations.
A key part to his success came down to figuring out what the other person wanted…
… and then giving them it.
A good deal leaves both people walking away happy. Rockefeller respected this, always wanting the other person to leave with what they wanted.
BUT… he also made sure he got what he want.
This begins with good listening, and it continues with communicating your message so it serves both them and you.
60: Be careful with what you say and how you say it.
Like many successful people, Rockefeller was somewhat of a perfectionist. He had a keen eye for detail, and it’s said he would go over a letter several times to make sure he got his message across…
… just the way he wanted it.
As CEO, you must always think about what you’re saying and how you’re saying it. Whether it’s in conversation or over an email, the words you say (and don’t say) and how you say them matter.
61: Start a movement.
No matter what deal or project he worked on, Rockefeller would always sell his vision to people.
If you can get people to buy into your vision, they’re more invested in the outcome.
Whether this is your team or customer, there’s value in starting a movement instead of selling something.
As Simon Sinek said, “people don’t buy what you do; they buy why you do it.”
Create a culture around that movement that you want to create, and you’ll start to attract the proper people and resources to help you make it happen.
62: Use a little fear when necessary.
Although successful CEOs don’t tend to prey on scarcity or insecurity, there’s value in using a little fear from time-to-time.
Rockefeller would often do this, allowing others to choose the lesser of two evils.
… You can do option B or option C.
Give them their only two options to be less than what they want, and allow them to make their own decisions. A large part of being a CEO is guiding people in the right direction, and force is rarely the way to go.
Again, he was a great but tough negotiator that knew what he wanted and then spun it into making it feel like they won, even if in a small way (by getting them to choose between options).
63: Be a fitness buff.
It’s said Rockefeller had a low pulse of 52. This is an impressive feat for anyone, let alone someone with as much responsibility as he had.
Regardless, fitness remained a core focus for Rockefeller throughout his life.
It should remain important to you, too, because you can only run and grow your business if you’re physically capable. Respect your body and mind, and look after them at all times.
The fitter you are, the better you can serve those you serve.
To build an empire, treat yourself like a professional athlete getting ready for the Olympics. Rest, diet, fitness and focus are all priceless in this tough journey of entrepreneurship.
64: Be open to feedback and complaints.
The more we work with successful business owners, the more we realize how important honesty is.
The best of the best don’t want a bunch of “yes men”. They want people who tell them what they think, which means you need to be open to feedback, complaints and criticism.
(even from your staff)
Rockefeller shared this trait, always talking to his employees and asking them to share their true feelings.
Will this hurt and anger you on occasion? I imagine so…
It doesn’t matter, as it’s the only way to grow and get better.
Get addicted to that feedback, seek it out each week, and adjust accordingly when good ideas or common threads arise.
65: Pay above average.
At the time, Rockefeller was considered the best employer in America. People wanted to work for him, and this largely came down to the fact he paid above the average.
Of course, this brought high expectations on his part.
He paid the best, and wanted the best. He cared only about building a World Class Team, and if you want to stand out in your own field and achieve what you desire, you too need a team of world class A-Players who take your vision and run with it …
Personally, this is one of the most important lessons I’ve learned from John D.
Although all 65 of these have played a large role in my own success.
In fact, these fundamentals have been a huge part of what we’ve built at 2X.
We leave the sexy tactics and hacks to others while we help entrepreneurs build a much more:
We have a formula that works to remove you as the bottleneck so that you can build your empire, much like John D. Rockefeller.
He’s one of the greatest CEOs and business leaders of all time, and our job at 2X is to help you become the CEO you’re capable of being by applying these principles.
It’s time to make the leap from busy hustling entrepreneur to successful CEO. We can help.
Apply here to receive a free 1-on-1 business breakdown call where we review your strategy and business in detail to help you identify the biggest bottlenecks holding you back, as well as a path to rapid growth.
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